Tried the Surface Pro 3 Pen - Mixed Feelings, but Optimistic
So I went over to my local pop-up Microsoft Store to demo the Surface Pro 3. I had super high expectations of the pen, and while it unfortunately couldn't meet them 100%, I'm cautiously optimistic for the future.
Inking and Drawing
The pen itself feels nice in the hand, and the tip doesn't have the same plastic-on-glass experience as most. It's actually a lot more velvety than I was expecting, almost like a felt pen - actually softer feeling than the Wacom pen on my matte-screen Toshiba Tablet PC.
The pen was accurate and responsive. Edge accuracy seemed really good, and I didn't notice parallax at all. I noticed a tiny bit of vectoring in certain programs - One Note actually felt a little bit more nervous with the inking than I'd expected, but maybe because the lines are straight-up black with no tone gradation like the other software I used. However, in Fresh Paint or Sketchbook Express and when doing actual drawing, I didn't really notice it at all. If I was really blasting across the screen with fast lines I could rarely get the line to skip...but I'm pretty sure that would have happened with my Wacom tablet, too.
The hover was a bit lazy as people have observed, but it responds instantly with no lag when you actually tap the screen, so that's no issue as far as I'm concerned.
My biggest issue was the pressure curve. It definitely worked, and there is definitely pressure sensitivity, but in the programs that I used (notably Sketchbook Express) it simply required way, way too much force to get darker lines. I didn't really have complaints about the initial activation force the way some people have, but I'm used to drawing with a relatively light touch, and I like my initial flourishes to be bolder for emphasis, and I just couldn't get that with the SP3 and the software I tried without feeling super ham-fisted.
So that's bad. But on the plus side, Microsoft has promised a pressure curve tool in their control panel in the coming months. If it works as promised, I will have zero qualms about recommending the sketching experience in the SP3. Whole heartedly. As it stands, with the software that I tried - which admittedly was not desktop-caliber goodness (i.e. Sketchbook Pro, Manga Studio Pro, or Photoshop) it felt a bit iffy to me for the kind of art that I do. Definitely passable, but not perfect.
The device itself felt really great. Very light, and the 12" screen seems like the Goldilocks option for a mobile sketchpad. 10.6" always felt too small to me, and even 11.6" @ 16:9 felt constrictive. But I didn't notice the size of this, which means that it's at least good enough! I also didn't notice the screen. Not even once. Which again, suggests to me that it's pretty good (I find it's a lot easier to notice that something isn't up to snuff).
In general, the whole device seemed to fade into the background. It never felt awkward, or annoying, or frustrating. The one I used didn't even have a type-cover, so I was playing around and navigating entirely using touch and the pen (including scribbling in text with the pen to search for things - the handwriting recognition works well). The new kickstand is also great, I spent almost the whole time sketching with it in its fully reclined easel-mode while I stood.
In any case, despite my reservations about the pen, I'm quite hopeful that MS will be able to work it out. I liked it enough to put down my name for a pre-order, anyway!